The state has let people hunt for pythons before, first people with a special permit, then anybody with a hunting license, but the Python Challenge is something new. It's open to anybody. Contestants need no experience hunting pythons. They don't need experience hunting anything. They don't even need a hunting license. All they need is to pay $25 and do nominal online training. The directive: Catch a snake, kill it, bring it to any of a few dropoff locations from Naples to Miami. The prize for the biggest snake is $1,000. The prize for the most is $1,500. The contest started Jan. 12 and ends Feb. 10.
The first python was found in the Everglades in 1979, the second in 1995. It's now estimated there are tens of thousands of the Asian snake with no natural predators in Florida, and the females can have 40 babies a year. The state of Florida hosts python challenges to help cull the population, but humans aren't very good hunters of pythons either.